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LATEST REVIEWS
MFA
"Not quite masters, but certainly deals with some bachelors."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Rape-revenge films are kind of nasty things, although this one at least had that it was written and directed by women going for it. That at least makes things a little less creepy and exploitative, if not necessarily different but one can perhaps watch it without second-guessing it so much. It's easier to watch a scene where a woman is painting naked as a sign of reclaiming her own agency where physicality is concerned and feel like that's actual intentions rather than an excuse that way, for sure, although it's still not the most creative way to tell this story." (more)
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
"Hiding a good caper in a minor comedy."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Boy, is "You Only Live Once" a mess, starting from a solid thriller set-up, moving through some genuinely inventive action beats, before spending the bulk of the film in a hackneyed plot that overlooks some pretty darn basic things in order to make the "hiding-out" comedy work, before getting back into some over-the-top action toward the end. It's a genuinely dumb script that decides on a tone but not really a cast, often seeming to make things up as it goes along." (more)
NOVEMBER (2017)
"A genuinely gorgeous fantasy the likes of which you may never have seen."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Rainer Sarnet's Estonian fantasy opens with some familiar, but beautifully-lensed, stark images of life in and around a poor, pre-industrial village, and just as you're starting to form an image of what this movie will be like, it drops some utterly bizarre fantasy elements into the mix as a family's kratt goes berserk from lack of work, stealing the cow and trying to lift it like a helicopter before having its mind blown after being told to make a ladder out of bread like a computer trying to parse illogic in an original-series "Star Trek" episode. If you've never heard of a kratt before, it's a jaw-dropping display of WTFery with which to open the film. For those raised on the Disney-fied versions fairy tales that came out of Western Europe, Eastern European folklore is WEIRD." (more)
FRIENDLY BEAST
"A bit more going on than most robbery/hostage dramas."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Friendly Beast" looks like a pretty typical single-location hostage thriller, a group of somewhat disagreeable people having guns pointed at them by petty criminals in way over their heads, but it's not very long before filmmaker Gabriela Amaral Almeida takes a hard turn, making a movie that, plot-wise, makes almost no sense as coming from that situation. And yet, once it gets rolling, it works; we certainly buy these characters feeling under-appreciated and disrespected enough to take this opportunity to seize the moment and the film." (more)
FOREIGNER, THE (2017)
"Doesn't actually NEED Jackie Chan, but benefits greatly by his presence."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "That "The Foreigner" could likely function almost as well without his title character is either its main weakness or what makes it interesting: It's a fine IRA thriller with a potentially game-changing wild card, and though it does not play that card quite as often as it might, that very fact can sometimes keep the audience off-balance as much as it provides expected thrills." (more)
TOM OF FINLAND
"A fine if too staid portrait of a porn artist."
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Touko Laaksonen, better known as the fetish artist Tom of Finland, liked to draw what aroused him: beefy men in uniform, or leather, or leather uniform." (more)
HAPPY DEATH DAY
"A silly slasher that knows exactly what it's doing."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's an old-man part of me that is inclined to grumble about how "Happy Death Day" never really spends a whole lot of time on the whys of its time-loop plot, chalking it up to kids raised on video games just taking the idea of multiple lives for granted (at least, until realizing that the people actually making the movie are a generation older and grew up playing the same Atari 2600s I did). That's the part of this particular movie the audience has to just go with, but when you put that aside, there's still a fun scary movie underneath, one that arguably hides its clever construction well enough to come off as enjoyably dumb fun." (more)
78/52: HITCHCOCK'S SHOWER SCENE
"78 set-ups, 52 cuts, 1 classic scene."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Do we really need an entire 90-minute documentary on the shower scene in "Psycho"? No, but then again, we don't need a lot of things that turn out to be pretty interesting, and "Psycho" was a pivotal moment in film history, with the shower scene one that absolutely everybody who has seen it remembers. You could spend a lot more than this time breaking it down - Hitchcock did take a full week to shoot that minute or so of film, after all, and then there was editing and music and all that, so there was thought put into it, and unpacking what seem like thought processes is usually worth doing." (more)
DEATH NOTE: LIGHT UP THE NEW WORLD
"Write this franchise's name in the book; it had a good run."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Was there really any particular demand for another spin-off of the theatrical "Death Note" series, or was the recent Japanese live-action television adaptation just a reminder to the rights-holders that there was money to be made? It doesn't particularly matter, I suppose, because this new addition coming ten years after the pretty entertaining 2006 two-parter is the worst sort of legacy sequel, picking up the convoluted mythology of the first but lacking the characters who initially got their hooks into the audience, or any particularly interesting successors." (more)
BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
"Ouch"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Brawl in Cell Block 99” is a film that feels like what might have resulted if the screenplay for a violent prison potboiler written for American-International Pictures circa 1973 had somehow landed in the hands of the late Stanley Kubrick, who not only chose to direct it himself but elected to apply to it the same kind of formal precision and measured pacing that he employed on “Barry Lyndon.” Not surprisingly, the end result is pretty weird indeed as the disparate elements almost seem to be deliberately working against each other at times and even those who are able to reconcile those extremes may still be put off by its extended running time. And yet, while I am not entirely certain that I enjoyed it in any traditional sense, it does contain some undeniable points of interest and it is better than it probably has any right to be when all is said and done." (more)

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